Tips to Reduce Risk of Medication Errors

Hospitals, physicians and pharmacies can make medication errors, probably more often than you think. Although they don’t always result in harm, some patients suffer serious injuries and even death. Patients should take charge of their health and consider some of the ways to reduce this risk.

Tips on Reducing Injuries Caused by a Medication Error

There are numerous ways that healthcare professionals make mistakes when it comes to medication. It may be in the administering of the drug or it could be prescribing the wrong dosage.

One patient’s prescription medication could be accidentally combined with another patient’s. Or there might be a failure to take into consideration adverse reactions when taking several different medicines. Other mistakes occur when a doctor fails to warn the patient of side effects or when a patient’s medical condition should preclude taking certain medications.

To avoid or reduce the chance of an error, keep the following tips in mind: 

  • share medical history;
  • verify information is correct;
  • keep a list of all the medications you are taking;
  • use only one pharmacy to fill your prescriptions; and
  • ask questions when you are confused.

It’s critical to share your medical history with the doctor or pharmacist. This should include any serious or chronic health conditions, whether you are pregnant or there is the chance of becoming pregnant, and any allergies to medicines. It’s also important to share the names of supplements, vitamins, herbs or other medications (both over-the-counter and prescription) you are taking.

Verify information is correct. Sometimes patients are intimidated about questioning whether a doctor or pharmacist has made a mistake. Even just confirming information can sometimes feel accusatory. But the slight risk of offense is worth your health.

For instance, if the doctor writes a prescription that isn’t legible, ask, him or her to write the basic info on a regular piece of paper that you can refer to if needed. The pharmacist may be unable to read it too. In the hospital, compare the information on your ID bracelet to the labels on your prescription medication.


  • the name of the medication you are prescribed;
  • the reason for prescription;
  • how long you should take it;
  • potential side effects; and
  • if there are certain foods or beverages you should avoid while taking it.

You can ask some of these same questions if hospitalized and a nurse comes in to administer medication. Keep a list of all medications. Sometimes errors are caused by a patient’s own confusion, especially when taking several medicines.

Keep a list of every medicine, noting: 

  • the name of the drug;
  • dosage (including how many times a day you should take it);
  • how you should take it (with water, food); and
  • what time of day you should take it.

This can help prevent adverse drug events. Consider making a copy of this list and giving it to a family member or friend. In the event of a hospitalization or a surgical procedure, there is someone else who is aware of the medications taken. Be sure to keep this list updated.

Use one pharmacy for prescriptions. It’s certainly more convenient to use just one pharmacy for prescriptions and it can also reduce the risk of illness.

By restricting your interactions to just one pharmacy, you can be sure they will have on file all the medications you are taking. So if there are concerns about harmful interactions between them, it is more likely a pharmacist will notice and answer any questions you have.

Ask questions when uncertain. If there is any confusion about the directions on a medicine bottle or instructions given by a doctor/pharmacist, ask questions. In fact, this can be one of the best ways to avoid a mistake. Never hesitate to inquire about something that you don’t understand or that seems amiss.

If you’re going into the hospital, be sure you’re taking steps to reduce risk of a hospital-acquired infection. If you ever suspect a healthcare provider is responsible for your injuries or condition because of medication or pharmacy errors, contact Gacovino, Lake & Associates at (800) 246-4878.

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